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Copper Mountain in Colorado has been the host of many major freeskiing and snowboarding competitions in the 2016-2017 winter season in the northern hemisphere, and given its world class status as a resort that is not terribly surprising. On December 17th, 2016, Copper Mountain hosted a major FIS competition in the category of Freestyle Skiing World Cup Men’s Park and Pipe, with the freeskiing professionals in the FIS league competing in a Men’s Halfpipe contest. The FIS is an extremely competitive outfit, especially within the realm of freestyle skiing, and for this reason it tends to have the absolute best in the world competing in their events and contests.
Copper Mountain is known around the world as being a highly rated and popular hub for technical, terrain, and park style skiing and snowboarding, due in large part to the fact that they employ a team of expert ramp, pipe, and park feature builders that help to make sure the facilities and riding surfaces at Copper Mountain are as close to flawless as they can possibly be. Ensuring the relative perfection of halfpipe and jump construction is a critical feature of any ramp design team for multiple reasons, perhaps the most important of these reasons being the safety and well-being of the professional athletes that will be performing on those ramps.
Halfpipes can be among the most difficult skiing park features to successfully construct, and they are definitely the most maintenance intensive features that a design team can endeavor to build. This is mostly because of the inclusion of vertical wall sections in large, professional-grade competition halfpipes. Given that these wall sections must have precise geometry and consistently smooth, uniform surfacing, they require constant and repeat attention from the builders and design teams.
The halfpipe conditions were exceedingly good for the 2016 FIS Freestyle Skiing World Cup Men’s Halfpipe competition, and even though the Americans did fairly well on their home turf with two U.S. freeskiing professionals finishing in the top five, it was the French who really cleaned up as they managed to secure the first and second place podium finishes at this competition. In fact, the two winning French freeskiers did exceptionally well given that they cleared the third place podium finisher by a sound margin of over five whole points.
This was a really exciting event put on by the FIS, a great end of season contest for the Freestyle Skiing World Cup, and a very close conclusion between the first and second place podium finishers. For the informational benefit of any and all freeskiing fans anywhere in the world, an event summary along with final results and rankings for the 2016 FIS Freestyle Skiing World Cup will be shared in the sections below.
1st Place – Kevin Rolland – France:
Giving the fans and judges an incredible performance at the 2016 FIS Freestyle Skiing World Cup Men’s Halfpipe competition at Copper Mountain, Colorado, French freeskiing professional Kevin Rolland was really on his game at this event. He essentially blew everyone else out of the water in taking first place, with the exception of fellow French FIS freestyle skiing athlete Benoit Valentin, with Rolland earning a staggeringly high points total at this competition. Rolland is a versatile freeskiing athlete, but he definitely specializes in halfpipe competitions, as he made abundantly clear at this Copper Mountain contest.
Kevin Rolland was competing with the bib number of four at this event, and he certainly was not holding back at all in the pipe or riding with a conservative tone. On the contrary, Rolland was going all out in the immaculately designed and constructed halfpipe at Copper Mountain, throwing all kinds of complex aerials including an intense Rodeo 7, otherwise referred to as a Rodeo 720. This is basically an off-axis flip rotation, while also including a 720-degree spin into the execution of the rodeo flip.
An exceedingly difficult maneuver to pull off, this combination certainly helped Kevin Rolland in his pathway to first place at the 2016 Freestyle Skiing World Cup Men’s Halfpipe contest at Copper Mountain. Rolland finished up the contest at the top of the podium with a powerful scoring total, which came out to 94.20 points overall. In addition to his impressive final score, Kevin Rolland was awarded a World Cup points total of 100.00 points, which represents a significant rankings boost to Rolland’s already solid league ranking.
As we head into the 2017 segment of the FIS professional freeskiing season, Kevin Rolland’s sponsorship profile breaks down into Nike All Conditions Gear (Nike ACG), Giro, Dalbello, and several other big name sponsors. This was a huge season highlight for Kevin Rolland, and a serious morale and rankings boost as the 2017 season commences.
2nd Place – Benoit Valentin – France:
Taking the second place runner-up spot on the podium at the 2016 FIS Freestyle Skiing World Cup Men’s Halfpipe event at Copper Mountain, Colorado was another French professional named Benoit Valentin. Benoit was able to give first place winner Kevin Rolland quite a strong challenge to his lead in this event, and although it wasn’t enough to overtake Rolland for the win, Benoit came very close with only two points separating the competitors at the conclusion of the contest.
This allows Benoit Valentin to achieve slightly more hangtime and air than some of the other competitors, and makes it easier for him to execute the more conventional flip rotation trick combos involving standard front flips and backflips. It does, however, make the off-axis rotational tricks a bit more difficult, and for this reason we tend to see less of the off-axis rotational tricks in Benoit’s repertoire.
Finishing out the 2016 FIS Freestyle Skiing World Cup Men’s Halfpipe event in second place, Benoit Valentin’s final scoring total came out to be 92.40 points overall. In terms of Benoit’s Freestyle Skiing World Cup points award as a result of his second place finish, he received a total of 80.00 World Cup points as his competition bonus. This competition was undoubtedly a major win on the part of the French FIS freestyle skiing professionals, and a significant boost for Benoit Valentin’s career heading into 2017.
3rd Place – Aaron Blunck – United States:
The United States was able to see one of their representative FIS freestyle skiing athletes make it onto the podium at the 2016 Freestyle Skiing World Cup Men’s Halfpipe competition at Copper Mountain. Rounding out the podium in third place, American freestyle skiing professional Aaron Blunck had a solid performance that put him soundly into third place by a very strong margin of almost five whole points. Aaron Blunck was competing with the bib number of one at this contest, and he was one of the athletes at this Copper Mountain men’s halfpipe event that managed to make a more conservative style work out well in his favor.
By conservative style, what is implied here is that Aaron Blunck didn’t necessarily have any one or two single tricks or combinations that put him over the top in terms of scoring, but rather he was able to execute a broad range of mid-level scoring tricks and combinations that cumulatively added up to afford him the third place podium finish at this event. Aaron Blunck is an extremely well-rounded freeskiing halfpipe athlete, who manages to incorporate a balanced assortment of off-axis rotational tricks, straight-axis rotational tricks, and innovative grab combinations.
In spite of his broad ranging trick repertoire, Aaron Blunck appears to be careful about not over-spinning or over-extending his tricks and combinations for the purpose of minimizing risk and minimizing the chances of major falls, wipeouts, or bails that can simply destroy a final scoring total. Blunck finished out the 2016 Freestyle Skiing World Cup Men’s Halfpipe competition at Copper Mountain, Colorado with a final scoring total of 87.00 points overall.
Although that score was handily surpassed by both Kevin Rolland (first place) and Benoit Valentin (second place), Blunck’s final score of 87.00 points allowed him a wide margin of victory over the fourth place finisher. In terms of Aaron Blunck’s FIS Freestyle Skiing World Cup points award allocation as a result of his third place finish, he earned a total of 60.00 WC points by the judges. Although Aaron’s FIS ranking is by no means bad at the present time, he definitely needed this volume of World Cup points heading into the 2017 season.
4th Place – Byron Wells – New Zealand:
Famed New Zealand-born freestyle skiing professional Byron Wells ended up bringing in the fourth place finish at the 2016 FIS Freestyle Skiing World Cup Men’s Halfpipe contest at Copper Mountain, Colorado. Wells is one of those freeskiing professionals in the men’s FIS division that appears to have a lot of fun with his performances, and this definitely seems to help in terms of loosening him up and relieving competition tension or anxiety. Often seen with a big smile planted across his face, this New Zealand native had a great performance at the Copper Mountain men’s halfpipe contest exhibiting his typical, exceedingly creative and innovative pipe skiing style.
Byron Wells has the ability to incorporate such seemingly effortless fluidity and flow in his halfpipe runs, which is certainly a critical component of being successful in the pipe. Unlike some other lower ranked pipe skiers in the FIS who have a more choppy appearance in the halfpipe, Byron Wells has the ability to smoothly transition from trick to trick without many hiccups or slow-downs in between. This helps him score big points, which he was definitely able to do at the Copper Mountain men’s halfpipe competition. Finishing the competition with a total final score of 82.20 points overall, Byron defeated the fifth place challenger to his fourth place contest ranking by a total of 2.20 points.
Although this is not exactly a vast margin, it was more than enough to solidify his fourth place position in the finals, and the World Cup points allocation that came along with that fourth place finish. As a result of taking fourth place, New Zealander Byron Wells earned a solid World Cup points total of 50.00 points. Although this WC points total was only 50% of the first place winner’s WC points allocation, this still serves as a substantial rankings boost for Wells.
Byron Wells has been extremely strong within the halfpipe division of the FIS Freestyle Skiing World Cup, given that over the last two years he has two first place victories under his belt in the halfpipe category. These two first place wins include a halfpipe competition at Buttermilk Mountain, Colorado in 2016, and another victory at a halfpipe competition in Aspen, Colorado back in 2015. This latest fourth place finish for Byron Wells at Copper Mountain, Colorado represents yet another highlight in Byron’s illustrious professional freeskiing career with FIS, and suggests that we can expect a lot more great displays of skill from Wells heading into 2017.